Absolutely chats to Essex interior designer, Daisy Whittaker, about a creative childhood, working for Kelly Hoppen and what she brings to the industry
Were you always a creative child?
Yes, I have always been creative. When I was younger, I was always very interested in my mums’ handbags, particularly her Lulu Guinness collection. I was always fascinated by the incredible designs and thought that I wanted to be involved fashion when I was older. Around the age of ten, I wrote to Lulu Guinness and sent off some of my own handbag designs and sketches, she very kindly responded with some encouraging words as well as a signed book, which I still treasure to this day. My love for interior design gradually evolved as I matured, and I knew it was the career path I wanted to head down.
What sparked an interest in interior design?
My mum was probably a big influence when it came to my interest in interior design. We have always had lovely homes which she put a lot of effort into creating for our family. Whenever friends or family would visit, I always remember hearing compliments about the spaces towards my parents. Growing up, my dad was an interior decorator, so I remember watching him being able to transform a space to meet my mum’s vision, which was inspiring.
When did you know it was the career for you?
I was very lucky that my parents have always let me and my siblings have creative freedom, so when I was old enough [early teens] I decided to decorate my own room. Then, whenever I got bored or grew out of it, I could raid my dads left over paint in the shed and just decorate again and change the space. I realised how enjoyable I found that and decided to study it at a higher level to develop my skills.
What did you enjoy most about your studies?
I was lucky to have always known that I wanted to do something creative, so I took Art as a GCSE. I then went on to study 3D Design as a Diploma at South Essex College, which was great because it was not restrictive at all. Other people from my class have gone onto automotive design, furniture design and jewellery design so it was a really creative environment that I loved. When I went onto university to study interior design, I really enjoyed being able to push myself to learn new skills, better my existing ones, and network with a wide variety of people from different aspects of interiors.
Why were you keen to work at Kelly Hoppen Interiors?
Kelly Hoppen has been a big name in interior design for as long as I have been interested in the field. Her work is inspiring, and I love that she creates her own pieces; be that furniture, lighting collaborations, accessories, soft furnishings etc. The level of detail that gets considered was incredible and I was so excited when the opportunity arose to work there. I was lucky enough to also work at Princess Yachts for a few years prior. It started as a work experience placement that then became a summer job. It was because of this experience that I was able to land the role at Kelly Hoppen due to my knowledge of high end interiors.
What was the greatest thing you learnt there?
I learnt a lot throughout my studies about interior design, but working at Kelly Hoppen gave me a whole new perspective on interiors. I learnt that lighting, colour and textures are a massive influence on a space. It sounds silly, but what might look white in some lighting will look green or cream in another. So, seeing designers combat that in large scale projects was a great practice.
Why was 2020 the right time to launch your own business?
2020 felt like the right time to launch my business because it seemed like a natural progression for my career. Initially I had concerns that I was too young to start up my own company, but realised that actually this is an advantage, I have fresh new ideas and know lots of different software that people who graduated ten years ahead of me wouldn’t have learnt. I like to push myself to learn more and felt that this challenge would throw me in at the deep end and enable me to learn about the business side of things, as well as the construction.
Did the pandemic delay you in any way?
In a way, I think that the pandemic benefited my business rather than delay it. As so many of us no longer had to pay to commute to work, or even had the luxury to spend any money on going out, socialising etc, a lot of my clients were saving that money to invest in their homes instead. I have since done a lot of home office designs which I am sure would not have been the case pre-Covid. I have also done a lot of living room redesigns as I often heard from clients, “I am tired of looking at the same four walls and want a change”.
What services do you offer?
I decided that I wanted to offer a design package that I would be interested in if I were a client. This means that I am involved in the full design, from start to finish. I create concepts, designs, mood boards, floorplans, elevations, joinery drawings and then go onto create FF&E Schedules (a document that details all of the required items, where to source them and how much), I even offer a service to procure the items on behalf of my clients should they choose it. I then help set up the spaces and even do all the styling, so that all the details are perfect for my clients.
How do you work with clients?
I think a transparent and relaxed approach is key for my relationship with my clients. It is very personal to invite someone into your home to change it, especially someone that they do not know very well! Naturally, as the projects develop, I get to know my clients very well and as a result, I may decide to tweak a few things to suit them and their needs better now that I know those extra few details.
Would you say you have a certain style?
I would say that my favourite design style is country modern / organic modern. Something that is simple, but warm and homely. As much as I can appreciate an interior with sleek lines, I know it is not somewhere that I could see myself snuggling down to watch a film, which is what a family home feels like to me. Our homes are an extension of who we are as people and I like to give my clients spaces that they can escape the stressed and rigour of everyday life.
You have worked on several projects in Essex. Has there been a stand out and, if so, why? Some stand out projects to me have actually been some of the smaller ones I’ve worked on. I have a client in Bicknacre and we are doing one room at a time. We started with her home office then moved onto the dining room. It was the first home office I had done after lockdown and it was such a great feeling knowing that my designs have completely changed how she works and uses the space. My client said that she now looks forward to using the space rather than dreading working in there.
What other projects have you worked on recently?
I have a full home renovation in Brentwood which has been a very special project as it has been in the pipeline for a year now. I have developed a great relationship with my clients and they give me a lot of creative freedom due to the trust we have developed. Another exciting project is an eco-build in Westcliff which is the first project of its type that I have worked on, so I am able to learn a lot of new information and techniques. Lastly, I have a holiday home in Portugal that is being installed in the next few weeks and is an incredible building. The spaces themselves are larger than most UK projects and the tranquil holiday atmosphere is abundant.
You are based in Rayleigh – what do you love about the area?
I love that Rayleigh has such a calm and homely feeling. It has a real community spirit and a lovely history that is reflected in the different styles of buildings throughout the high street. We have a market still midweek, but also a good nightlife so it appeals to a wide audience.
Where would you like to take your business from here Daisy?
In the future I’d like to progress to become a design and build company. This is really important to me because the stronger the relationship between myself and the trades, the better the outcome we’ll produce. It is also one less thing for my clients to have to consider and worry about so watch this space!